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Jul 30 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Robert Kuttner: Where is Our Crisis President?

Obama should have steered us away from disaster. Instead he drove us straight to it.

Like most American spectators watching this slow-motion train wreck of a budget disaster, I have assumed that at the last minute the damsel would be pulled off the track of the oncoming train. Somehow, the Republicans would appreciate the stakes, a compromise (albeit on sickeningly Republican terms) would be reached, and the nation would be spared the catastrophe of default-a gratuitous deepening of an already dire economic mess.

Now I am not so sure. In the last 48 hours, the Republicans have dug in even more, and Democrats are drawing the line at the Reid plan (which is already far too Republican).

For those who think that a default won’t happen because it is in nobody’s interest, think back on World War I. It was in nobody’s interest. Yet it destroyed Europe’s common civilization and ushered in nearly a century of economic instability and war. World War I occurred because both sides dug in and assumed the other would have to blink first. But that was a miscalculation. Instead of a last-minute deal, we got four years of trench warfare, economic ruin, and millions of wasted lives. Oops.

New York Times Editorial: It’s Up to the Senate

Mr. Reid is negotiating with Republicans on their demands for an enforcement mechanism to make sure the deficit cuts take place in the later years of the deal. Both parties envision a bipartisan panel that could recommend cuts; if those are not adopted, some kind of automatic cuts would go into effect. This automatic knife can be dangerous, arbitrarily cutting without regard to economic circumstances. Democrats should insist that taxes and revenues are not ruled out as a way to lower the deficit.

The House planned a deliberately obstructionist vote on Saturday against the Reid bill, but some Senate Republicans are signaling they are willing to agree to this more reasonable framework. If enough of them can join the Democrats and ignore the bleats of the Tea Party, it may still be possible to avert calamity.

Jane Hamsher: Is Standard and Poor’s Manipulating US Debt Rating to Escape Liability for the Mortgage Crisis?

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Standard and Poor’s has a political agenda riding on the notion that the US is at risk of default on its debt based on some arbitrary limit to the debt-to-GDP ratio. There is no sound basis for that limit, or for S&P’s insistence on at least a $4 trillion down payment on debt reduction, any more than there is for the crackpot notion that a non-crazy US can be forced to default on its debt.

Whatever S&P’s agenda, it has nothing to do with avoiding default risks or putting the US on sound fiscal footing. It appears to be intertwined with their attempts to absolve themselves from responsibility for their role in the 2008 financial crisis, and they are willing to manipulate not only the 2012 election but the world economy to escape the SEC’s attempts to regulate them.

It’s time the media and Congress started asking Standard and Poors what their political agenda is and whom it serves.

Thomas Geoghegan: Use Article I to Address Debt Ceiling

But is the debt ceiling law really unconstitutional? My old law professor says no. He also says no one has “standing” – an inside baseball term for the special injury a litigant must plead in order to sue. Other law professors opine that the courts will do nothing, because it is a political question.

Of course, as to whether anything is “unconstitutional,” there is no Platonic answer up there in heaven. It’s unconstitutional if a court says it is.

Virtually the entire legal debate about the debt ceiling has been focused on the 14th Amendment, section 4. It’s easy to see why. The language is on point: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned (emphasis supplied).” That would seem to say: If Congress authorized it, Congress must pay for it.

But the far better case is that, under Article I of the Constitution, Congress has no power to welch on a debt. Article I, unlike the 14th Amendment, is a restraint on Congress. If the power is not in Article I – Congress does not have it.

William Greider: Obama’s Bad Bargain

The most distressing outcome of the deficit hysteria gripping Washington may be what Barack Obama has revealed about himself. It was disconcerting to watch the president slip-slide so easily into voicing the fallacious economic arguments of the right. It was shocking when he betrayed core principles of the Democratic Party, portraying himself as high-minded and brave because he defied his loyal constituents. Supporters may hope this rightward shift was only a matter of political tactics, but I think Obama has at last revealed his sincere convictions. If he wins a second term, he will be free to strike a truly rotten “grand bargain” with Republicans-“pragmatic” compromises that will destroy the crown jewels of democratic reform.

The president has done grievous damage to the most vulnerable by trying to fight the GOP on its ground-accepting the premise that deficits and debt should be a national priority. He made the choice more than a year ago to push aside the real problem-the vast loss and suffering generated by a failing economy.

Tarak Barkawi: Neoliberalism, Not Multiculturalism Is Biggest Threat to Western Values

The paranoid style in politics often imagines unlikely alliances that coalesce into an overwhelming threat that must be countered by all necessary means.

In Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington conjured an amalgamated East – an alliance between “Confucian” and “Islamic” powers – that would challenge the West for world dominance. Many jihadis fear the Crusader alliance between Jews and Christians. They forget that until recently, historically speaking, populations professing the latter were the chief persecutors of the former.

Now Anders Breivik has invoked the improbable axis of Marxism, multiculturalism and Islamism, together colonising Europe. As he sees multiculturalism as essentially a Jewish plot, Breivik has managed to wrap up the new and old fascist bogies in one conspiracy: communists, Jews and Muslims.

Lee Saunders: Undermining the Right to Vote

There is no right more precious in our nation than the right of citizens to cast a ballot on Election Day.  That is why generations of Americans have sacrificed and even died in efforts to expand the right to vote.  Yet across the country, powerful corporate interests and the right-wing politicians who do their bidding are working hard to make it more difficult for citizens to vote.  In more than two dozen states this year, bills have been introduced to restrict the right to vote; and in several states where Wall Street-backed Republicans control both houses of the legislature, governors have signed these fundamentally misguided measures into law.

As a result of these cynical attempts to turn back from the progress America has made in expanding voting rights, millions of voters are in for a surprise when they go to the polls.  They will find new requirements that have never before existed, requirements that have been put in place to keep particular voters – students, minorities and senior citizens – from having their voices heard in our democracy.

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